Proposals to give a new lease of life to an empty community centre have reached a major milestone with a property swap between the council and the charity Shekinah.

A decision is being signed this week by Council Leader Nick Kelly authorising the exchange of property freeholds between Shekinah Mission and the Council.

Under the deal the Shekinah building in Bath St will be transferred to the Council while Stonehouse Creek Community Centre will be owned by Shekinah. A loan agreement is also being arranged which will allow Shekinah to remodel the building.

It means that work can now get underway to transform the building which has been empty for a number of years.

Shekinah – which celebrates its 30th year this year – hopes to create a new form of community centre that will bring the ‘system’ to those who need it, in one place.

They are proposing a range of services under one roof, including

•         Skills training
•         Health promotion
•         Education
•         Employment services
•         Housing advice
•         Medical support including an outreach GP service and a practice nurse
•         Mental health support
•         Counselling
•         Learning exchange

The charity has been liaising with local residents and reassuring them that while they specialise in helping those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, the centre will not provide residential accommodation.

They are also keen to get local residents involved in the centre, which has been empty for a number of years.

Council Leader Nick Kelly added: “We want Plymouth to be a safe place to live, we want those who need help to get it more easily and we are looking forward to seeing this project help people get back on their feet after hitting problems.

“Shekinah has been part of the city for 30 years and has made a massive difference to so many people and their families, teaching new skills, helping people tackle their addictions as well as access medical support.”

“Here at the Council we often use their teams to help the city look its best. We turn to them when we need railings and walls painted and decorated. It gives those on the work crew experience of working and it makes the city look better.”

The move will also enable the Council to continue its ambitious plan to regenerate Millbay, in particular, the land around the completed Millbay Boulevard.

Under the agreement Shekinah will be able to occupy their current premises while work on the new centre is underway.

The changing rooms at Stonehouse Creek will still be available for users of the playing fields, thanks to a long term lease agreement between the Council and Shekinah.

The decision – which is subject to call in – also approves the business case, allocates funding into the Capital programme which will enable a loan to Shekinah as well as authorises the tenancy arrangements.

Shekinah’s chief executive John Hamlin added:  “We think this centre could help kick start a new episode in Shekinah’s story. Having all these services in one location and in such as central location will help those who need our services.”

The deal is still subject to due diligence and negotiations, so while a decision is being signed authorising the exchange, the deal is not yet complete.